Names like William Morris, John Ruskin and Archibald Knox have become synonymous with the Arts and Crafts’ rebellion against Victorian mass production. Their vision was a return to the celebration of the individual craftsman through their simply built furniture, predominately made of English oak. Pieces of antique furniture made under the Arts and Crafts banner during the late 19th century are easily recognisable therefore through their simplicity and restraint against the flamboyance of Victorian revivals.
Along with the instantly recognisable handmade pieces came the Arts and Crafts vision for a return to the simple life. Colleges supported by C R Ashbee’s Guild of Handicraft were set up in 1880’s Whitechapel in London where working men were taught design in the fields of coppersmithing, lithography and cabinet making. The items that were made would then be sold to the general public and the proceeds ploughed back into the college. From Whitechapel, the Guild eventually moved out to Chipping Camden, Gloucestershire, where 150 families lived the communal life, making furniture for the Victorian market. However, the Victorian taste for the flamboyant never really appreciated the finer points of this simple hand crafted furniture.
Arts and Crafts was however more influential and readily appreciated in Europe and the USA and it did pre-empt the onset of Art Nouveau, which came into prominence in the late 19th and early 20th century. John Ruskin and William Morris continued to be heralded as the main influences behind the Arts and Crafts Movement and, although financially it was deemed to be a failure, legacies from that period survive in the form of well made hand crafted furniture that stylistically are instantly recognisable of the movement.
These handcrafted pieces of antique Arts and Crafts furniture can still be found through specialist Arts and Crafts dealerships in Preston, Lancashire and Cumbria.
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